Joline Tang
Jun 24 · 7 min read

How our LGBTQI+ designers and allies took action for visibility

Image description: Some members of the Microsoft Pride team wearing Pride shirts.

Around the world, members and allies of the LGBTQI+ community are celebrating Pride month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which ignited the contemporary LGBTQI+ movement. We’ve come a long way, but we still have further to go in the fight for equality and the freedom to exist as our authentic selves.

Microsoft has been at the forefront of LGBTQI+ inclusion since 1989 and continues to advocate for equality in the workplace and worldwide in groundbreaking ways — and the Microsoft Pride 2019 campaign is no different. Spearheaded by the Microsoft employee group GLEAM, Global LGBTQI+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft, and driven by 258 volunteers, Microsoft Pride is a cross-company and cross-product initiative aimed to help create empathy and bring visibility to issues the community continues to face and build a sense of urgency for more action.

Designed with and by our LGBTQI+ community, we’re taking action by creating and releasing limited-edition products in addition to donating to LGBTQI+ nonprofits like The Trevor Project, Mermaids, Egale, ACON and Destination Tomorrow.

Hear from some of our design leaders who helped define “Microsoft Pride” as they share their goals, purpose, and impact of Pride at Microsoft.

Image description: A collage of the Microsoft Pride posters.

Why is this initiative important to you?

Aleksey Fedorov (AF), He/Him/They/Them: I grew up in Russia, where being gay is almost impossible. I’m hoping that through the Pride campaign we can reach LGBTQI+ people and allies around the world to share our support and show how together we can make a more equal world for all.

Ana Arriola (AA), She /Her /They /Them: Rachel Elizabeth Cragle says it best representing our Queer People of Color communities: “We cannot overcome what we ignore.” As a Latinx queer lesbian womxn of trans and nonbinary experience, I ensure we take a genuinely intersectional holistic approach to lean in and lift us all up for future generations to follow. I spend my personal time advocating for and educating people on policies with others both inside and outside of Microsoft. As a public spokesperson on AI/AGI and intersectionality with a social-justice point of view, I do this by celebrating our future generation, the Alphas. As a mother of three Alphas, they inspire and remind me daily of how much more our generations of today need to be more like them.

Sven Seger (SS), He/Him: I came out in the late 1980s with the AIDS epidemic as a backdrop. You not only came out for yourself, but also for the people around you who had AIDS and only had a short amount of time left. We took action back then on many fronts, and the times have changed for the better. I am proud of Microsoft for supporting us in using the Pride celebration as a reminder of the fact that it takes action to drive progress.

Adam Krett (AK), He/Him: Growing up, my only exposure to the LGBTQI+ community was the things I saw in the news, movies, or the slurs thrown around by friends and classmates. As I began to make friends with and work with the great people in this community, I realized how much I didn’t know or was wrong based on stereotypes. While I am very proud that Microsoft is a champion for equality, I am especially happy to share my learnings with my daughters. Providing a view into an inclusive world is something I value greatly and hope they can champion in their own lives.

Image description: The official Microsoft Pride 2019 anthem video.

How is your team taking action with the design of these Pride-inspired products?

Elliot Hsu (EH), He/Him: Fifty years after Stonewall, actions still count louder than words. For us, one of the actions is to design products with and for the LGBTQI+ community that gives visibility to groups that have often been erased and neglected. We partnered with our LGBTQI+ employees to do just that.

AK: From an overall brand perspective, we really focused on ensuring the campaign represented our values and commitment to diversity and inclusion. We wanted the voices of our employees to shine through every moment. The heritage of Stonewall, the parade buttons, voices of our employees, and underpinnings of taking action for equality became the fabric of the message.

Image description: Brightly colored buttons with statements from the Microsoft LGBTQI+ employees and allies

AF: We were inspired by the LGBTQI+ rights movements of the 1970s — particularly by the buttons people wore during those demonstrations. Earlier this year, I visited Gay’s the Word, a bookstore in London, which featured various buttons from the 1970–1990s marches and that really inspired us to use buttons for the campaign. We wanted to create hand-crafted elements like patches, buttons, and iron-ons that people could collect and put together.

SS: Adam, Renae Dekker, and I embraced slogans of actions as the key graphic, but we really wanted to highlight the actions of our employees through the buttons. So, we open-sourced the design by inviting the Microsoft employee group GLEAM to share statements, images, and objects they wanted to feature on the buttons. We gathered over 100 responses and turned them into 150 buttons, which you can check out and download here.

Image description: The behind-the-scenes video for the Surface Pro Type Cover and Pride Skin for Surface Pro.

AF: The rainbow flag is not the only LGBTQI+ flag. There are many more flags representing different gender identities and sexual orientations. It was very important for us to bring visibility to these often neglected groups across our campaign and many of our products. It was also paramount for us to drive corresponding donations to LGBTQI+ nonprofits to help further advance fight for equity.

AA: With our Pride Skin for Surface Pro, we wanted to represent a genuinely intersectional view of all the queer communities. The iconic skin represents the flags of the abrosexual, agender, asexual, bigender, bisexual, demisexual, gay, genderfluid, genderflux, genderqueer, intersex, lesbian, neutrois, nonbinary, pangender, pansexual, polysexual, and transgender people.

EH: The flags are treated as a digital tapestry reflecting both technology and the digital age. The uneven ends of the colors and the side by side layout of each color blends and abstracts the individual flags. It combines them into a single bold graphic as a symbol of the strength and unity of the community now and in the future.

AA: In turn, websites for these products feature the designers behind them as well as trans rights advocates at Microsoft — Sera and Clark. Lifting up one of the most disenfranchised communities was important for us. And if you look closely you’ll also spot me and Elliott on these pages 😊

Image description: Two Microsoft employees with the Pride Skin for Surface Pro (left) and the Surface Pro Type Cover (right).

AA: Stonewall happened in 1969, which was a time of radical social justice movements and graphic design. We drew inspiration from both the signage of the Stonewall riots, as well as typography from the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the iconography of Paul Rand, and Josef Müller-Brockmann’s seminal work which makes up the contemporary Surface Pro Pride Type Cover.

EH: We used the contemporary Pride flag, which was introduced in Philadelphia in 2017, to signify the multitude of communities within LGBTQI+. The rainbow flag is modernized with the addition of black and brown, bringing in today’s inclusion and diversity of the group. And the simple straightforward use of the word “Pride” and the highly recognizable rainbow imprinted on the type cover is the unmistakable statement of Microsoft’s support and inclusion of the community.

AF: The celebration of the LGBTQI+ flags also come to life in the Windows 10 wallpapers, Skype emoticons, Xbox Pride Sphere Pin, and on the Bing homepage with uniquely curated content featuring LGBTQI+ activism. You can also discover Pride on Mixer with dedicated streams from select partners, unique stickers and exclusive programs. Tune in on June 30 to live stream the Seattle Pride Parade! Last year, Ryan Bickel explored how to bring the iconic rainbow into the Fluent Design System, which resulted in the subtle shine, glow and rainbow iridescence. You can see these elements applied as a glow on people’s faces in our posters, Office themes, and in the Windows 10 wallpapers.

Image description: Multiple Surface devices showing how the Pride campaign was expressed Windows, Office, and Bing.

How can allies take action during Pride month and beyond?

AF: Educate yourself on the current thinking on gender and sexuality. Speak up when you see microaggressions, homophobia, and transphobia. And just show up and support — this matters the most.

AA: To be an advocate — not just an ally — means making the emotional effort and educating yourselves on the contemporary gender, expression, sexuality, human rights issues we are struggling against. When you hear inappropriate statements, which are emotionally harmful and hateful to us, like misgendering or queerphobia, please stop the conversation and point out that these prejudicial statements are inappropriate. Sometimes being an ally and advocate means putting yourself in the way of harm to protect others.

Taking action all year long

Join our fight for equity by marching with us in parades around the world, making donations to LGBTQI+ nonprofits, and advocating for LGBTQI+ rights. Our commitment to our LGBTQI+ community goes beyond the month of June — it is deeply entrenched in our culture and in our ways of working every day of the year.

To learn more about how Microsoft is taking action for equity and visibility, check out: www.microsoft.com/pride


To stay in-the-know with Microsoft Design, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or join our Windows Insider program. And if you are interested in joining our team, head over to aka.ms/DesignCareers.

Microsoft Design

Putting technology on a more human path, one design story at a time.

Joline Tang

Written by

Former teacher, current cat owner. I manage the Microsoft Design publication on Medium on the side. My words are all me. She/her.

Microsoft Design

Putting technology on a more human path, one design story at a time.

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